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Opinionated Fantasy Hockey Draft Guide

Image from bleacherreport.com

If you're a diehard hockey fan, then it's that time of year where you're researching player statistics and getting ready for your fantasy draft. Whether you play for money or not, being crowned champion at the end of the season gives you the ultimate bragging rights over your buddies. I play in multiple leagues with multiple friends on yahoo fantasy hockey, and in general there are about 10-12 teams. The roster spots consist of 12 forwards, 5 defence, 2 goalies, and 1 bench spot (a roster size of 20). Please note that every fantasy hockey league gives points differently, so adjust accordingly to your leagues.

Here's my drafting guide for this upcoming fantasy hockey season:

1st Round

In my fantasy draft last year, my first round pick (5th overall) was Jamie Benn and ohhh boy did my friends ever make fun of me for it. At the time, players like Tavaras, Giroux, Hall and Kane were still available and Benn was ranked below them on the yahoo site. I got hassled from my buddies for the pick; but in the end Benn went on to win the Art Ross Trophy for the most points scored in the 2014-15 season. I couldn't have predicted that he was going to score the most points so I didn't pick him for that reason, but instead I selected him for his all around game. In most yahoo leagues, points are awarded for hits, penalties, +/-, and blocked shots; stuff of which Benn contributes positively in. Not only does he score (guaranteed 75 + points in a season at this point), but he can get you those extra bonus points for the little things. Unless you're picking first (which in most leagues Crosby is your guy), then consider guys like Benn or Ovechkin immediately because of their other contributions on the ice. You are aiming to get the player that will get you the most "fantasy" points, so find the one star player that has the all around game catered to your league style. Don't just jump the gun and draft the guy who you think is going to score the most goals, but look at how your league points are distributed and weighed and see who will contribute the best with your rules. Hypothetically, Crosby can score 100 points and Benn may score 80 but still receive more fantasy points than Crosby because of his other contributions. Just keep that in mind.

2nd and 3rd Rounds

For rounds 2 and 3, I select another scorer and an elite goaltender. Players such as Kessel, Tarasenko, Giroux, Perry and so many more are most likely available in the second round (picks 11-20 overall in a 10 team league). This season, if Kessel is still on the board then I won't be able to push the draft button fast enough. He's lost 13 pounds this past summer and he's actually going to be playing with an elite centre for once in Malkin or Crosby. Everyone knows this information, but bigger name players might be picked before Kessel because of the "allure" of their stardom. Kessel is a lock for high goal and assist totals this season, hence the worthy pick up.

If your league heavily gives your goalies points, then it'll be smart to pick one in the second or third round and get the best of the best. The trick for goaltenders is to find the one that will get you many saves but also get awarded with the wins and starts. Most fantasy leagues give points for game starts and wins, so that makes Carey Price (66 starts last season, 44 wins) one of the best fantasy options. Another goaltender to strongly consider lies in America's capital: Braydon Holtby. With 71 starts last season and 41 wins, he may see fewer game starts this season but his win totals should be the same if not higher than last season because of how strong the capitals are expected to be this season. High game starts, high save percentage, and high winning rate. You can't go wrong here.

Drafting Defencemen

If you haven't already realized, Subban and Karlsson are probably off the board now that it's past round 3. I like to let others pick them, because although they are elite defencemen in the league, I don't want to reach high to draft them. Just hear me out on this, yes Subban and Karlsson can easily reach 60 points in a season, which is amazing from a fantasy standpoint for a defenceman. But I just find that people draft them too early while there are still elite forwards left on the board. For forwards, you have a select few that can score 65+ points in a season (27 last year), so I find it is wise to grab as many of those as you can (while also considering their all around game). For defencemen, in 2014-15 there were 27 who scored 40 + points last year, with another 12 who scored 35+ points (according to NHL stats). For defence, these totals are acceptable for your fantasy squad, as you just gotta draft the ones that contribute in the other areas as well. Kris Russel scored 34 points last season, but also lead the league in blocked shots with 283. You can draft him late and he'll still grab you a decent amount of points because of his ability to block shots. Click here and take a look at the NHL's blocked shots leaders from last year. Look at their hit and point totals as well, because some of these players will be available past the 4th round and being knowledgable about these stats can prove to be valuable with your draft picks. I can easily fill a roster of 5 defence spots with players who are expected to score 40 points but also gain hit or blocked shot points as well. The best part? I can draft them later and focus on grabbing elite goaltenders and forwards with my high picks. 

Image from sportsnet.ca

That being said, it would still be wise to have a defenceman on your fantasy team who contributes decently offensively; at least one. I'll let you pick your favourite for this one, just don't pick them too early.

Rest of the draft

Anything past round 3 or 4 is based on what you want. Do you want to draft you're second goalie early? Do you want to load up on good point-producing forwards that were ranked low? I personally like to grab my second goalie, since my league has high point totals for saves, game starts, and wins. I don't like to get stuck with a garbage goalie on a garbage team, so usually around round 5 i'm grabbing my second goalie, only if there aren't the star forwards left that I wanted. 

In the mid rounds, there is still great talent to have. On yahoo, ranked past the 50th mark (5th round in my league), are guys like Juri Hudler, Brian Little, Johnny Gaudreau, Kris Kreider, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Gustav Nyquist, and so many more. This is why I personally believe in loading up on the forwards who can consistently score you the points that will keep you at the top of your fantasy league. Don't draft too many defencemen too high, because those picks you have in rounds 4-7 can grab you a solid point-contributing forward and starting goaltender. 

As I said before, in the later rounds start looking at those underrated fantasy defencemen such as Kris Russel or Johnny Boychuk. My last picks are usually used to choose some young forwards who have yet to reach their potential (but they just might, who knows) but still contribute in the other areas of the game as well. Braydon Shenn will most likely score 50 points (good pickup with your last pick) but he can also get you 200 registered hits in a season (bonus points). If your league gives you points for penalties (no matter how minimal), then you might want to take a chance on Tom Wilson of the Capitals. Not only will he most likely register 200 hits this season, but he will also receive 140 + penalty minutes as well. Add to the fact that coach Barry Trotz has discussed moving him up the depth chart to further develop the former first rounder, then he might find his point totals reaching 30-40 this season as well. 

Best of luck in the fantasy season to everyone.

Thanks for reading

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